So everyone who knows me is aware that I love Christmas movies. Not just the cheesy ones on television. Since we were little kids, Jamie and I have watched "It's A Wonderful Life" and "White Christmas". Over the years, we've enjoyed the classics like "Christmas Vacation", "A Christmas Story", and of course, what would Christmas be without Elf?
Because we love Christmas movies so much, last year we took a day trip to an exhibit called "I Love Christmas Movies" where we toured the sets of five of the all-time classics. Even though the tour guide wanted the tour to move quickly, Jamie and I lingered behind the rest of the group and took some amazing pictures. (Hey, we waited over an hour to get it---we weren't being rushed through!).
Can you tell from the pictures--we love Christmas movies???
However, there can be a problem with these movies. Sometimes as we watch the perfect settings with all the snow, the decorations, and all the happy people living happily ever after, we start to envision the world through the filter of a Christmas movie and thinking we need that perfect Christmas experience.
For instance, there was the year we decided we would have the "Christmas movie experience" and get a real Christmas tree.
Now we hadn't had a real Christmas tree since I was in elementary school. But I watched many Christmas movies that talked about commercialism, the horror of fake trees, and how you can't have the authentic Christmas experience without a live tree.
So Jamie and I decided we were going to get a live tree. The week before Thanksgiving, we went off and picked the biggest, fullest tree we could get into our house and car. It was gorgeous. We loaded it up, and there was barely room for us in the car.
We drove home that day holly and jolly as we listened to Christmas music, trying to ignore that I was sneezing, Jamie was coughing, and our eyes were itchy and watering.
So we got the tree home and put it up in the house. It was way too big for the space, but like Clark Griswald, we thought it was beautiful.
Of course, when you take a tree from the outside into the inside, what happens? It warms up, and its fragrance overwhelms the room.
Well, the more the tree warmed up, the more difficult it became for us to breathe. Neither one of us wanted to be the one to admit that that tree was making us sick.
Still, before nightfall, the tree was back outside, waiting for a nice family to come to pick it up and enjoy it. Even worse, Jamie and I were sick for a week! The stupid tree almost killed us!
That was not the experience promised in the Christmas movie! No one in those movies ever has allergies and has to be the one to tell their family, "It's me or the tree—one has to go." But that was our reality. Now we're back to fake trees.
The fact is that real life isn't always as perfect as a Christmas movie.
Christmas isn't always perfect.
You don't always find the perfect job, meet Prince Charming, and find the meaning of life on Christmas Eve as a light snow falls.
Over the years, we've had the whole gambit of Christmas experiences.
We've had big family Christmas' and Christmas when we were alone—just Jamie and I and my dad, who doesn't like Christmas and makes it difficult.
We've had Christmases where people were sick—two years ago, we had covid.
We've had some really, really bad Christmas when my dad was abusive, and we've had to ignore the holiday to avoid triggering him, and we've had Christmas that we're very Dickens-like.
This year I have four Christmas trees. Don't judge me. I am in my forties and have many years to collect ornaments, and fake trees are stored in the basement yearly. (Cause I can't have a real one.) On the other hand, for about ten years, we had no tree because of mom's allergies. That was really hard because she loved Christmas as much as I do.
Christmases vary with the season. Some seem perfect, but others aren't even close.
But that's ok. Jesus didn't come to give us the perfect Christmas. He came so that imperfect people could experience salvation.
That is the real meaning of Christmas. We must remember this truth when our Christmas' don't fit the Christmas movie picture or the one in our heads.
This is true even on Christmases when we buy less because finances are tight, when we don't get to go home for Christmas or when we're stuck at home and would rather be away.
Sometimes one of the best gifts we can gift ourselves or the people around us is to free ourselves from the preconceived ideas of how Christmas should be.
Instead, we need to relax and enjoy the Christmas God has given us. Enjoy the little moments and be grateful for what we are given.
It's like Kelly Finch said to her husband, Steve, in the movie "Deck the Halls":
Kelly Finch: What is your favorite Christmas memory?
Steve Finch: You know what it is.
Kelly Finch: Tell me.
Steve Finch: I was 7, my dad and I moved to Alabama... and Christmas morning we ate on the floor, ate French fries and drank chocolate milk.
Kelly Finch: That's what Christmas memories are made from, they're not planned, they're not scheduled, nobody puts them in their Blackberry, they just happen.
When we remember this, when we focus on the true meaning of Christmas and relax about making everything "perfect," that's when we really enjoy the holiday.
Something to think about as we start this holiday season. Hope it helps you relax, let go of the idea of "perfect" and enjoy the moments God has given.
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
Adessa absolutely loves Christmas!!! Her favorite things are decorating the Christmas trees (yeah, she puts up four in early November), watching Christmas movies, and driving around looking at lights. You can read more from her at adessaholden.com or listen to the "Girl, That'll Preach" Christmas Spectacular wherever you get your podcasts.